The Elwha River on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula once teemed with legendary salmon runs before two towering concrete dams were built about a century ago.
On June 1, nearly two decades after Congress called for full restoration of the river and its fish runs, federal workers turned off the generators at the 1913 dam powerhouse and set in motion the largest dam removal project in U.S. history.
Contractors will begin dismantling the dams this fall, a $324.7 million project that will take about three years and will allow the 45-mile Elwha River to run free as it courses from the Olympic Mountains through old-growth forests into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The 105-foot Elwha Dam came on line in 1913, followed 14 years later by the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam 8 miles upstream. For years, they provided electricity to a local pulp and paper mill and the growing city of Port Angeles. Electricity from the dams, enough to power about 1,700 homes, now feeds the regional power grid.
Source: NALMS Notes June 2011